The Yankees celebrated George Steinbrenner’s birthday as well as the nominal end to the season’s first half by eking out their 50th victory with an extra inning triumph over the Blue Jays. The walk off celebration put the team squarely on pace for another 100-win season, but there is some concern about whether the Yankees can maintain that pace in the second half. Before looking ahead, however, it is time to look back over the first half and determine not only the most valuable contributors, but also the most disappointing laggards.
The clear cut MVP among all position players was Robinson Cano. In fact, a strong case could be made for Cano being MVP of the entire American League. His OPS+ of 163 and wOBA of .411 both easily led the team. More importantly, Cano exhibited an impressive level of consistency across most key splits. As many managers have learned the hard way, Cano is not neutralized by left handers. In fact, he almost hits them better. Through the first 81 games of the season, Cano has a .977 OPS against right handers complemented by a .946 OPS against lefties, including a league leading 10 home runs. Unlike in years past, Cano has also performed equally well at home and on the road, and avoided a prolonged slump. Of most importance, however, Cano’s OPS of .955 with runners in scoring position and .997 OPS in late and close situations have completely dispelled the notion that he can’t hit in the clutch. Meanwhile, on defense, Cano posted an UZR/150 of 9.6, good for fourth among all second basemen in the major leagues.
Is Robinson Cano the 2010 AL MVP?
Aside from Cano, the Yankees most productive player, and perhaps most pleasant surprise, over the first half has been Brett Gardner. Once a slap and run type player, Gardner has evolved into a much more complete hitter as evidenced by his OPS+ of 130 and wOBA of .385, good for second on the Yankees and eighth among all outfielders in the major leagues. By stealing 24 of 29 bases, Gardner has also continued to use his speed as a weapon, something that has also come in handy in the field. Had he enough innings to qualify, Gardner’s UZR/150 of 8.3 would rank fifth among all left fielders. Once a part time player, Gardner has emerged as an integral part of the lineup.
Fellow outfielder Nick Swisher checks in right behind Gardner as the third most valuable position player in the first half. His OPS+ of 139 and wOBA of .383 are right in line with Gardner, but the latter’s base running and defense give him the edge. That’s not to say Swisher has been a defensive liability. Most metrics have him as anywhere from average to a shade above, so his glove has not detracted from the value provided by his bat. Along with Gardner, Swisher has helped turn what was thought to be one of the team’s weaknesses, into a strength, even with the disappointing start by Curtis Granderson.
Top-10 AL Outfielders, By wOBA
|Jose Bautista||Blue Jays||0.36||0.532||16.2||0.383|
|Alex Rios||White Sox||0.358||0.509||13.9||0.380|
While Gardner and Swisher have buoyed the outfield, Curtis Granderson has been an anchor. Ironically, Granderson’s defense, which seemed to be an emerging concern for the Tigers, has been stellar. His UZR/150 of 17.0 currently ranks first in the American League and second in the majors to only Tony Gwynn Jr.’s amazing rate of 49.8. Unfortunately, Granderson’s relative lack of power and speed has made the center fielder a major disappointment with the bat (although he has managed his fair share of late inning heroics). His subpar batting line of .226/.302/.402 has been the product of struggles from both sides of the plate. Against lefties, Granderson has hit an anemic .192/.232/.282, a troubling trend that seems to suggest he is no more than a platoon player. Of course, Granderson hasn’t exactly torn the cover off the ball against righties. With an OPS of .822 against right handed pitchers, Granderson hasn’t been awful, but still well below his career mark of .890. By not producing more against righties, Granderson’s weaknesses against lefties have been further exposed. Considering the team’s long-term commitment to Granderson, a resurgent second half is of tantamount importance.
Although not “bad”, Mark Teixeira has also been a disappointment relative to his standard performances. Teixeira’s extended early season struggles created a hole in the middle of the Yankees lineup that was further exacerbated by the nagging injuries that have hampered Alex Rodriguez’ performance. Although he has started to round into form of late, Teixeira’s failure to match his baseball card for much of the first half proved to be very costly to the team. The Yankees will need Teixeira to continue improving on his meager .428 slugging percentage in the second half to help compensate for the relative decline in power that has beset the team.
Derek Jeter’s season has not only been a disappointment, but also the most curious. The Yankees’ short stop has alternated between hot streaks and cold spells, a level of inconsistency not usually associated with the Captain. Jeter has also struggled against right handers and failed to produce outside of the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium. Of most concern, however, have been a few underlying splits. In particular, Jeter has been swinging at more pitches out of the zone, which has likely resulted in a decrease in his line drive percentage. Fewer walks and more groundballs have combined to create a lag on Jeter’s SLG and OBP, which have fallen well off his career standards. What’s more, after having one of his better seasons in the field, Jeter has also regressed with the glove. Although his UZR/150 of -1.7 is perfectly adequate, Jeter’s range has fallen off even to the naked eye. A strong second half by Jeter would be a major boost to the Yankees’ idling offense, but it would also make the Captain’s pending off season contract negotiations much less sticky.
Derek Jeter’s 2010 Splits vs. Career
Because of several key injuries, the Yankees’ bench has been pressed into duty on many an occasion, but mostly come up lacking. Aside from Marcus Thames, whose poor defense has weighed against his offensive contributions, the Yankees’ reserves have all been negative contributors, ranging from Juan Miranda’s -0.2 runs above average to Ramiro Pena’s -6.9. Francisco Cervelli, who has actually caught more games than Posada, had been a welcomed surprise with a strong April and May, but after posting an OPS of .521 in June, even that element of the bench has weighed down the team.
2010 Performance of Yankees Bench
Despite slumping since returning from a broken foot earlier in June, Jorge Posada has still posted a wOBA of .375 and maintained a level of performance that has actually been above his career norms. However, Posada’s defense has continued to decline along with his health, making him a significant liability behind the plate. Meanwhile, Alex Rodriguez has suffered from a relative power outage, but has just now started to hit the long ball of late. Even without an early power surge, Arod has managed a respectable wOBA of .360 and still ranks third in the league in RBIs. If Posada and Arod can stay relatively healthy, then the Yankees should be able to look forward to increased production from these two very important members of the lineup.